An Inside Look At How to Become a Veterinarian

Reading Time: 4 minutes

student completing her vet school prerequisites by checking on catIf you want to learn about how to become a veterinarian, then you’ll first need to know what you’re getting yourself into.

Veterinary medicine is truly one of the most difficult degree’s one can aim to acquire. Many vet students may often find themselves struggling to cope with the emotional, physical, and educational demands. So if want to learn about how to become a veterinarian? Read on!

What is a Veterinarian?

It’s always a good idea to search for a good veterinarian who’d be willing to provide you with as much experience as possible.

But before you learn more about how to become a veterinarian, let’s first look at what exactly is a vet? To put it simply, a veterinarian is a doctor who specializes in the care and treatment of sick or injured animals. 

A veterinarian can provide a range of services to their potential clients. These services include, and are not limited to:

  • Pathology
  • Working with wild animals
  • Working for government, research, or educational institutes
  • Diagnosing and treating non-human animals of varying species
  • May provide alternative medicine treatment
  • Perform surgical procedures
  • Prescribe drugs

What is A Veterinarian Technician?

A  veterinary technician is a person who undergoes training to aid veterinarians. The duties of a veterinary technician will often involve:

  • Prepping a patient for the veterinarian
  • Checking a patients body weight and condition
  • Assisting the veterinarian
  • Setting up the surgery rooms
  • Tending to sick animals
  • Administering drugs to patients
  • Run blood tests in a centrifuge
  • Clean and wrap wounds on a patient

It is important not to confuse vet techs with a vet assistant. Vet techs will have to undergo training in order to obtain a Veterinary Technology Associate’s Degree of Applied Science. However, a vet assistant will not require extensive educational training. Rather, most veterinary assistant may only require on-the-job training to work with animals.

vet student filing her vet school requirements listening for horse's heart

From Small to Large Animals: There are Many Different Types of Veterinarians

The veterinary medicine degree can offer students a wide range of opportunities. There are many jobs you can get yourself into after you complete this degree. Listed below are only a handful of tracks students can choose to specialize in.

Veterinarian Tracks based on Species

A veterinarian practitioner is a clinical vet who may choose to receive specialized training with a specific species. For example, an Avian veterinarian will specialize in the treatment and care of birds. While an equine veterinarian will choose to specialize in the treatment and care of horses. Some veterinary specialty tracks you can get into include:

  • Companion animal veterinarian: Working solely with dogs and cats
  • Large animal veterinarian: This will include working with cows, sheep, and even goats
  • Exotics and Reptiles: Which will often include treating snakes, guinea pigs, lizards, etc
  • Wildlife vet: Working in either zoos or conservations

4 Facts You Didn’t Know About a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

  1. Vets and vet students have the highest rate of depression and suicide in comparison to other jobs. This is because vets are often tasked with euthanizing animals that may otherwise be healthy (pound animals).
  2. Contrary to popular belief, the veterinary medicine profession is considered one of the lowest earning professions for a medical degree.
  3. Females make a large portion of vet students in most schools.
  4. The cost of vet school can vary anywhere from $25,000 a year to $60,000 a year on average.

How Long is Vet School?

It can take anywhere from 5 to 9 years to obtain a doctor of veterinary medicine. In North American, veterinary medical colleges will require students completing an undergraduate science degree. These undergraduate science degrees will often require students taking the necessary pre-veterinary courses like chemistry, animal biology, cell biology, and physics.

After you complete an undergraduate bachelor’s degree, you can then apply directly to veterinary medical colleges.

top vet schools student checking dog's paw

How Long Does it Take to Become a Veterinarian?

Therefore, it roughly takes 3 years to complete an undergraduate degree, while the actual veterinary medicine degree in the United States is 4 years.

Now it’s important to also mention that in countries like Australia and New Zealand. It only takes 5 full years to become obtain a doctor of veterinary medicine. In both New Zealand and Australia, students are not required to complete an undergraduate degree.

A Look Into a Veterinarian Salary: How Much Do Vets Make?

The average hourly wage for a veterinarian is roughly $48 to $60 per hour. Graduate entry level vets may earn anywhere from $54,000 to $90,000 per year. While more experienced vets can earn anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 per year. However, bear in mind, that some vets make more than others based on their field of work.

For example, a vet pathologist can earn upwards to $157,000 per year. While a small animal vet can earn up to $90,000 a year. Therefore a vets salary will be based on a number of factors including:

  • Whether or not they are board-certified for a specialty
  • Number of years in practice
  • Specialty
  • Private practice or company-owned practice
  • Location

What to Expect in a Vet School Application

Working with animals is a lot of work! Not anyone can get into vet school. The veterinary medical association requires that students need to be quick thinkers, have excellent problem-solving skills, and above all, be devoted to what they do.

Vet School Requirements

The pre-veterinary requirements to get into vet school will vary depending from school to school. But, as a general rule, most veterinary college’s will require students completing pre-requisite science courses, maintaining good grades, and most importantly get hands-on experience working in a veterinary practice.

woman with cockatoo learning how to become a veterinarian


Therefore, it goes without question that maintaining high grades is important in order to get into a (Doctor of veterinary medicine) DVM degree and program. After all, it is an incredibly competitive field, and so only the brightest minds are selected.


Students who are interested in learning how to become a veterinarian must also be proficient in the basics of science, maths, and physics. In the United States, the course pre-veterinary requirements include completing papers in:

  • Biological sciences
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • English, and
  • Mathematics

In addition,  you may be required to complete a GRE examination, as well as provide letters of recommendations from professors and/or previous veterinarians you may have volunteered for.

Hands-On Experience!

If you want to learn about how to become a veterinarian, you’ll also need to get hands-on experience working with animals. It only makes sense! Most vet schools require students volunteering at a local shelter, vet practice, or zoo before they apply to vet school.

This is often a mandatory pre-requisite! and some universities may even dictate how many hours students need to devote to getting hands-on experience.

Veterinarian Schools Near Me

So, are you ready to learn how to become a veterinarian in the United States? Well, there are currently 30 vet schools that are credited by the American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC).

man with dvm degree looks at dog's x ray

Want Your DVM Degree? Here are the Best Vet Schools in the USA!

Here we have listed just a few of the top vet AAVMC vet schools in the USA.

  1. The University of California, Davis
  2. Cornell University
  3. Colorado State University
  4. Texas A&M University
  5. North Carolina State University (NC State Vet School)
  6. University of Pennsylvania
  7. University of Minnesota
  8. The University of Georgia
  9. University of Wisconsin
  10. Iowa State University

The Best Veterinary Schools Across the Globe!

Do you want to travel? Maybe you don’t want to stay in the USA. Fortunately for you, there are many more amazing vet schools across the globe.

  1. The University of Guelph, Canada
  2. The University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  3. University of Bristol, United Kingdom
  4. Massey University, New Zealand
  5. Royal Veterinary College, University of London
  6. The University of Sydney, Australia
  7. The University of Zurich, Switzerland
  8. Seoul National University, South Korea
  9. Utrecht University, Netherlands
  10. The University of Melbourne, Australia

Vet’s Become Doctors to Save Lives Not Make Money!

Veterinarians are truly one of the hardest working professionals in today’s world. Many veterinarians will work as hard as they can to save the lives of as many animals as they can.

If you want to become a veterinarian because of a passion towards animals, then it is important to know that this degree is not for the faint of heart.

The education will be stressful and working with animals will be hard on your body! But, above all, the biggest challenge you may face is the emotional stress of seeing shelter animals or being a part of euthanasia in animals.

doctor of veterinary medicine hold dog and cat heart icon

Common Questions on How to Become a Veterinarian

What qualifications do you need to have a veterinarian degree?

How many years of college to be a vet?

How much does a vet make?

All product and Company names are Trademarks™ or Registered® trademarks of their respective holders.

Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase may earn a commission. Keep in mind that we link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission we receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

Disclaimer: This post may contain references to products from one or more of our partnered sites, Honest Paws and Vets Preferred. However, CertaPet content is to be used for educational and informational purposes only. Please seek veterinary advice for your own situation. For more on our terms of use, visit this page